Oil for Silence Fuels Bahraini Torture Deaths

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:49 PM EDT, 23 May 2012

Bahraini Torture Victim, Photo by Nabeel RajabMANAMA, Bahrain — The call for democracy that began during Bahrain's Arab Spring has fomented into a full-scale revolution in response to the ruling Sunni monarchy's persistence in maintaining power by refusing to acquiesce to Bahraini citizens' demands for democratic elections.

External human rights groups have charged the monarchy with gross violations but lack sufficient access to the country to allow them to fully investigate. Internal investigations have confirmed that the Bahraini monarchy is guilty of gross human rights violations and have published their findings on several websites and papers found at the end of this post.

The latest victim of this dictatorial regime could be Yousef Mowali, 23, who was found dead of an apparent drowning earlier this week. However, Al Jazeera reported that autopsy results indicated evidence of torture, and if the allegations are proven true, then Mowali could be latest Bahraini to have died from torture while in the custody of Bahraini military police.

In testimony before the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), representatives of the monarchy continued to assert that all individuals in detention are being treated humanely as their cases progress through the justice system. They have also vociferously denied any culpability in the deaths of Mowali and others.

The ruling Sunni monarchy has politicized the human rights abuses occurring in their nation by claiming that the violence is the result of sectarianism instigated by the Shiite minority and covert Iranian operatives who seek to overthrow the monarchy.

According to the monarchy, the suppression of 'sporadic' violence in which some people may have sustained injuries is justified to maintain law and order and to protect the sovereignty of Bahrain.

Many countries in which martial law has been instituted under the guise of suppressing 'subversive elements,' find that once law and order is restored the military often refuses to relinquish power even after the crisis has passed.

In Bahrain the military could prove just as dangerous to the monarchy as they are to the protesters. This possibility is bolstered by images of wanton violence, destruction, and undisciplined behavior by a police force seemingly out of control.

The military in Bahrain has been responsible for the disappearance of hundreds of people, they have maimed, killed, and disappeared thousands more, and a growing number of women have been assaulted and raped by policemen.

Though human rights abuses have been substantiated through empirical evidence, it is the videotaped footage of police brutality that refutes the monarchy's claims of benevolence and a desire for sincere reform.

In late 1990 "some of the most egregious offenders included Ian Henderson, a former colonial officer employed in Bahrain who was accused by multiple witnesses of torturing prisoners. Adel Flaifel, a notorious security officer identified by many detainees as having overseen torture, both of whom were given immunity under Royal Decree 56 of 2002.

The torture described by many human rights reports was widespread and systematic. Up to 1866 who made up 64% of detainees reported being tortured during this time period by members from three government agencies, namely the Ministry of Interior, the National Security Agency, and the Bahrain Defence Force. (Source: Wikipedia)

Victims claimed that representatives from each of these agencies were actively involved in interrogating detainees in relation to the unrest leading up to Bahrain's Arab Spring uprising.

Though, as one commentator noted, these figures hail from a 'distant' past, the fact that allegations of torture and abuse persist nearly twenty years later signifies a pattern of systemic and despotic governance. These abuses which have occurred over a long period of time have only become more visible because of the uprising, and the legislative reforms ratified by the BICI look good on paper but do not seem to have translated into real change.

At the grassroots level people are still suffering abuse at the hands of those who are charged with protecting them, and like the civil rights movements which occurred in other countries like South Africa, United States, and India to name a few, it was because of the sustained will of the people that these governments eventually had to bring their governance inline with the human rights legislation codified in their constitutions.

Most troubling about Bahrain's 'Bloody Spring' is the fact that both the United States and the United Kingdom, two countries that present themselves as the enforcers of global justice and the arbiters of human rights abuses, have remained silent on this grave issue. In fact, both governments have recently announced their support of the Bahraini monarchy during official state visits apparently out of fear that a rift between the two nations could adversely impact national security interests and oil supplies.

For more in-depth coverage of this issue view the news reports below, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, the video footage of the brutal crackdown and its victims presents undeniable proof that the Bahraini monarchy is unwilling to entertain democracy and will not go 'gently into that good night.'

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Al Khalifa's Vendetta Against Bahraini Medics

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:14 PM EDT, 21 March 2012

A Wounded Shiite Bahraini DemonstratorBAHRAIN – On Tuesday, 20 March 2012, the Bahraini attorney general concluded his summation in the government’s case against the medics who defied an injunction against treating wounded Arab Spring protesters last year.

Although, the prosecutor initially suggested that the charges against the 20 medics would be drop, they changed course last week with an announcement that the government decided to pursue charges against 5 of the healthcare workers. The remaining 15 cases would be transferred from a military to an as yet unspecified professional tribunal.

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice minister, directed the public prosecutor to release a statement clarifying the government’s intent to prosecute the defendants for violating an injunction against treating wounded protesters. The majority of the wounded were Shi'a, which leads some observers to believe that these trials may be motivated by sectarian agendas.

The predominantly Sunni government did not provide an explanation for the choice to pursue the indictments and trials against the medical workers, despite initial claims that they would bring no charges against the doctors. It is also unclear what methodology drove the decision to try five medics while referring the remaining cases to a tribunal.

The Bahraini government’s decision to prosecute these doctors drew international condemnation, and human rights groups were vociferous in their assertion that the medical workers were being punished simply because they helped civilians during the bloody crackdown by state security forces during the anti-government demonstrations.

Last September, the military court sentenced each of the doctors to 15-year jail terms for the crimes of sedition, incitement to overthrow the government, stockpiling weapons, and taking hostages. These charges arose out of an incident when 20 doctors and other medical staff refused to stop treating the injured protesters and subsequently barricaded themselves in Salmaniya hospital.

After the militia agreed to let them leave, the medics disbanded peacefully and were of the understanding that the matter was concluded. However, they were subsequently charged and their cases referred to a military court. In the face of worldwide criticism, their cases were moved to a civil court  where the charges were dismissed. The presiding judge in the current case provided no explanation for why the initial charges were never dropped, nor why the defendants had not been informed of their continued indictments.

Bahrain is a pivotal ally to the United States, hosting the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, providing an observation point for America in the Middle East, and aiding its efforts to monitor Iran and its nuclear program. Michael Posner, the US assistant secretary of state, said last month that Bahrain should seek "alternatives to criminal prosecution" in the case.

Bahrain's Bloody Spring

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:58 PM EDT, 23 February 2012

King Hamad Bin Isa Al-KhalifaMANAMA, Bahrain - Only history will reveal the true extent of change wrought by the 2011 Arab Spring, but it is obvious that the situation in the Middle East is fundamentally different from what it was a year ago. Many changes have occurred, though many appear to be cosmetic when measured against the deep historical changes which did not materialize.

The Arab Spring revolution started peacefully in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt, where the ruling family led by President Hosni Mubarak chose to violently suppress protesters.

As the world watched with fascination, emboldened citizens in Libya, Yemen and Syria also took to the streets to demand regime change.

Courageous protesters risked imprisonment, torture and death in the pursuit of freedom. Journalists and on-the-ground activists leveraged traditional and social media outlets to expose human rights violations which eventually resulted in the dethroning or exile of entrenched heads of states, their families and coteries.

But, as the immediacy of the revolution began to fade, the citizens of the island kingdom of Bahrain continue to be oppressed. The Sunni ruling monarch, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, rules over a Shia Muslim majority, and in his efforts to thwart the reform demanded by the populace, his government has been accused of sanctioning gross human rights violations.

On 14 February 2011, Bahrainis dissidents organized massive protests coordinated by word of mouth, texts messages, and "a Facebook page named "Day of Rage in Bahrain", a page that was liked by more than 90,000 people just one week after its creation.

The Bahrain government responded with what has been described as a "brutal" crack down on the protest, including shocking violations of human rights that caused massive anger. Later on, demonstrators demanded that King Hamad step down." (Source: Wikipedia)

In an effort to demonstrate equanimity and transparency, King Hamad ordered the creation of an Independent Commission of Inquiry. The Commission has subsequently recommended reform and advised the monarchy to provide unfettered access to the country by Human Rights NGO's that are currently denied entry to document abuses.

Bahrain's Bloody Spring is a human rights travesty, but the rest of the world bears some responsibility for ignoring these people who have given so much in pursuit of a more democratic governmental process.

The award-winning documentary which follows, won the Foreign Press Association Documentary Award of the year. It provides a graphic and unvarnished portrait of the dangers protesters and those who would assist them face. We need to spread the word to let them know that their efforts are not in vain and their struggle is not forgotten.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xaTKDMYOBOU]